Dealing with mental health challenges can be difficult, and often leave you feeling exhausted, defeated, and overwhelmed. When you feel that way, it can be hard to ask for support; even just the thought of having to find help can be overwhelming and make you push it off altogether! That’s completely understandable. If you’re looking for a therapist for the first time or considering changing therapists, searching through the seemingly endless list of potential therapists can be daunting. So how do you make the right choice? Below we discuss 10 tips to make finding the right therapist a little easier!
How to Find a Therapist
When it comes to finding the right therapist to meet your needs, there are various factors to consider. There are essentially 2 components to finding a therapist: 1) preliminary research to narrow down some potential candidates, and 2) discussing your needs with potential therapists during free initial consultations to actually determine if it is a good fit.
And when we talk about "good fit", we are referring to a few different elements such as whether the therapist has the skills to competently support your needs, you jive well with them and feel comfortable opening up, and logistically it makes sense to work with them.
Below are 10 tips to help you navigate finding the right therapist for you that touch on these different points of consideration.
1. Think About What Type Of Therapy You May Want
If you’re wondering how to choose a therapist, one important thing to consider is the type of therapy that interests you. We often talk about “therapy” or “counselling” as a single entity, but there are actually many types of therapy. A few of the most common ones are:
Beyond these, there are other forms of therapy such as animal assisted therapy, art therapy, and many more. Take the time to learn a bit about various forms of therapy and which ones work best for managing your particular issues; depending on what you need support with, there may be a certain type of therapy that typically works best. So doing some research ahead of time can help you narrow down therapists who have the expertise to support your needs.
That said, try to not get lost in the sea of all the different types of therapy. It isn't necessarily realistic for you to know exactly what one is best for you. Finding a therapist who has taken trainings for a handful of different methods and takes an integrative or eclectic approach (i.e., they use a variety of different methods to tailor therapy specifically to your needs) is also a good place to start.
2. Check Your Insurance Plan Options
Many extended health benefits cover counselling services, but be careful to check ahead of time as some companies only cover specific professionals. You will need to confirm whether your plan covers Psychotherapy, Psychology, or Social Work, for example, as these are all types of professions that provide counselling.
Once you know what type of professional is covered under your benefits, you can begin narrowing your search based on credentials. Your insurance company might even have a list of approved providers so this is also a good place to start in finding a therapist.
3. Consider Your Therapy Budget
When it comes to therapy, prices can vary based on your location, types of therapy offered, the therapist's credentials, length and frequency of sessions, and your insurance coverage. Try to take these differences into account when creating a budget and choosing a therapist. If you have lower income and don’t have insurance, consider looking into various low-cost options. For instance, at Inner Growth Counselling we have an Affordable Therapy Program to help those with financial limitations. Whatever budget you decide on, try to stick to it! You don’t want to cause yourself unnecessary financial stress.
4. Ask Your Doctor For Therapist Suggestions
If you’re unsure where to start when looking for a therapist, try your family doctor! They may be able to help assess your needs and then refer you to someone they know from past experience or within a trusted network. Alternatively, they can provide you with resources and options to help narrow down your search so you don’t feel as overwhelmed. If you don’t have a family doctor, you can also try a walk-in clinic to see if they can give you any resource lists or referral suggestions.
5. Ask People You Trust For Suggestions
It can be hard to seek advice from people you care about when it comes to finding a therapist. You may feel embarrassed or scared to admit you need help. But remember that people who care about you want to see you happy and healthy! You might even be surprised how many people you know have already been to therapy. By asking family or friends for therapist referrals, you can get more detailed accounts of the therapist’s style to help you decide whether you might mesh with that person. So if you feel comfortable, try reaching out to friends and family for suggestions!
6. Explore Online Databases
If you’ve exhausted other options in your search for a therapist without much luck, try checking out online databases. It can be time-consuming and overwhelming given the high volume of therapists online, but if you want to explore all of your options for mental health professionals available to you, searching online is the way to go. Websites such as Psychology Today, Theravive and Good Therapy have searchable databases to help you find therapists in your area who specialize in your concerns. You can even just search on Google things like "Therapists in Barrie" (or wherever you live), and explore the top few searches as a place to start.
7. Try Online Therapy If You Need More Options
Although there may be therapists in your area, it’s possible that you might not feel comfortable with any of them, they might not be accepting new clients, your location might have limited in-person therapist availability, or you live too far away to reasonably commute to therapy. If any of those issues sound familiar, consider online therapy! Virtual therapy is quite commonplace now and can drastically broaden your options for choosing the right therapist. Referring back to online databases can help with this search if you are open to therapists from outside of your city.
8. Check Credentials
There are a number of categories for mental health professionals including counsellors, psychotherapists, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists. These designations require different levels of education and practice therapy under various regulations. You will want to first make sure that the therapist you choose is licensed in your province/country and that their level of education and training is adequate for your needs.
9. Consider Your Goals For Therapy
The options may seem endless when searching for the right therapist, but only certain people will mesh with your personality and what you want to achieve in therapy. One way to narrow down your list is to consider what your goals are for therapy. There are many reasons you may want therapy including phobias, anger issues, lack of assertiveness, trauma, managing a disorder like depression or anxiety, or support in navigating rocky relationships. Your goals for therapy will vary depending on the issues you want to address.
You may also want to consider if you are looking for short-term specific support with a given issue or longer-term therapy to use as an ongoing support throughout life's stressors. Some therapists are very solution-focused and will work to achieve your specific goals as soon as possible, while others are more open and flexible with less structure to their sessions and expectations for treatment planning.
10. Ask Questions About Issues That Are Important To You
Aside from the last point, these tips have focused on where to start your search for a therapist and logistic based questions to consider. Once you have narrowed down your search to a few therapists based on those guidelines, you'll want to set up initial free consultations with a few of them to continue to determine if they will be a good fit for you. This is a great opportunity to get a feel for their personality to see if you are comfortable speaking to them as well as to ask them questions about some of those logistics to confirm they are a good match.
Any qualified mental health professional should be prepared to answer these questions:
What kinds of therapy do you offer and what is your general approach?
What is your area of expertise?
Are you experienced with my specific issues?
What is your background and education?
How long have you been practicing?
What are your hours of availability?
What are your fees and do they vary for any reason?
Remember: You deserve to be matched with someone who is capable and qualified to help you. You are allowed to ask questions, provide feedback, and voice any concerns you may have. These initial consultations are an added resource to help you ensure that your potential therapist can help you achieve the goals you have identified, or at least can support you in a way that aligns well with your preferences/desires.
What To Do If You And Your Therapist Are Not A Match
So you finally found a therapist you like, but after a few sessions you start to realize that you aren’t well-matched after all. That’s okay! This is common and there is no need for any sense of shame or obligation. If you realize that you and your therapist aren’t the right fit, be honest. It’s not about hurting your therapist or making them feel that they failed you. It’s simply about your needs. You can explain that you want to pursue other types of therapy, or that you feel therapy isn’t meeting your goals, or that your needs have changed. Although this conversation may be uncomfortable, it will give both you and your therapist a sense of closure and understanding. And trust us, your therapist wants you to get the best care possible, so even if it's not by them, they will support your decision.
The Bottom Line
Finding the right therapist can feel like an overwhelming task; it’s hard to know where to start! Try to not rush yourself through the process. Take the time to consider what is important to you when it comes to your therapy needs and goals. If you want to invest meaningfully in your mental health, it’s worth taking the time and effort to find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable.
If you’re currently searching for therapists in Barrie, ON for in-person sessions, or you’re interested in virtual therapy, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Inner Growth Counselling to book a free consultation and see if one of our Barrie therapists could be the right fit for you!
Our team of online and in-person Barrie counsellors provide quality and effective counselling services in Barrie and virtually across Ontario to individuals (6+), couples and families. We also offer an Affordable Therapy Program that provides counselling services in Barrie to individuals (12+) who are facing financial challenges that need mental health support.